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Gajendra Singh Shekhawat Inaugurates National Conference on Rural WASH Partners' Forum

National Conference on Rural WASH Partners' Forum celebrated the progress made in rural water, sanitation, and hygiene in India and laid the groundwork for further advancements in this critical sector.

Shivam Dwivedi
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat Inaugurates National Conference on Rural WASH Partners' Forum (Photo Source: PIB)
Gajendra Singh Shekhawat Inaugurates National Conference on Rural WASH Partners' Forum (Photo Source: PIB)

Union Minister for Jal Shakti, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, marked the first anniversary of the Rural WASH Partners' Forum (RWPF) by inaugurating a two-day National Conference at Vigyan Bhawan in New Delhi. The conference, held under the theme "Accelerating Progress towards a Swachh Sujal Bharat," celebrates the successful collaboration of RWPF with the Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) and KPMG India for Development/ Sector Partners in the rural WASH sector of India.

The primary objective of RWPF is to expedite the implementation of the Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) and Swachh Bharat Mission-Grameen (SBM-G), which are the flagship missions of DDWS, Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India. RWPF serves as a platform that brings together various organizations working in the rural WASH sector to foster collaboration, knowledge-sharing, and finding cost-effective and scalable solutions. The aim is to avoid overlapping efforts and ensure better synergy among stakeholders.

During his address to the delegates, Union Minister Gajendra Singh Shekhawat praised the government's efforts in improving citizens' lives and achieving the Open Defecation Free status on October 2, 2019. He credited the visionary guidance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for the successful completion of over 12.6 crore tap connections and more than 64% ODF Plus villages. The Minister emphasized the importance of RWPF members' ground presence in achieving last-mile connectivity for rural water and sanitation facilities.

Prahlad Singh Patel, the Minister of State for Jal Shakti & Food Processing Industries, also highlighted the collaborative efforts of the government, development partners, civil society, and communities in providing tap water connections to every rural household. He emphasized the symbolism of unity and collective efforts in ensuring the availability of quality water in adequate quantities for all rural households.

Vini Mahajan, Secretary DDWS, expressed her gratitude for the support provided by development and sector partners in achieving significant milestones. She mentioned that 64% of rural households have tap water connections, and 64% of villages are on their way to becoming ODF Plus, showcasing the progress made so far.

Vikas Sheel, Additional Secretary & Mission Director, Jal Jeevan Mission, discussed the activities undertaken by RWPF partners over the past year and their role in the mission's implementation. The RWPF has identified 12 thematic areas and allocated them to development and sector partners for mutual collaboration. The platform's goal is to act as a WASH Think Tank and foster the exchange of ideas between states and partners.

Nilachal Mishra, Head, G&PS, KPMG, discussed how RWPF and its partners will support the states and union territories in implementing the programme, with a focus on training and capacity building for long-term sustainability.

The conference also witnessed several launches and felicitations, including the Digital WASH Academy, RWPF Annual Yearbook and Web page, Swachhata Chronicles, Field Assessment Framework and Ranking Protocol of Swachh Survekshan Grameen (SSG) 2023, and a Manual for Disaster Management Plan (DMP) to ensure safety and uninterrupted supply of WASH assets and services.

Furthermore, the Minister of Jal Shakti felicitated four start-ups that developed cost-effective and portable water quality testing kits under the Technology Challenge conducted by Invest India with DDWS support.

The conference was attended by senior officials from state and union territory governments, Mission Directors, Secretaries in-charge of JJM and SBM-G, representatives from line ministries of the Government of India, and corporates working in the WASH sector, among others.

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